Well, that wasn’t so difficult was it…. four little trips out over the last 6 weeks, mostly close to home and who’d have known that Fawks was a lefty… oh and longer, taller and wider!!
Wings unclipped, we headed over to Hurley for our first three nights of freedom… only 10 miles away from base but with a lovely little twisty road with lots of trucks followed by a single track road to access the campsite…. a breeze!
Despite the forecast being cold and sunny it snowed and sleeted, but that didn’t stop us from having our first non-family guests over – Thank you Pete and Liz, nor did it stop us enjoying a couple of slightly wet walks around the surrounding area to be welcomed by the newborn bleating lambs.
As we were so close to Marlow, we thought it would be rude not to use it as an excuse to check out one of the restaurants we had been contemplating for a while – The Vanilla Pod. A lovely walk along the river whilst fighting off the sleet and snow was a great way to build up the appetite and it is fair to say that the food was very good… not exceptional, but very good. We both opted for the ‘Savour the Experience’ Seven course tasting menu, Keith with the meat and fish options, and I went vegetarian.
With a blink of the eye and after a few days back at the farm we were soon off again, this time going very slightly further – all of 12 miles – to Henley where we stayed at the Henley Four Oaks Campsite.
We arrived to sunshine and blue skies, which unfortunately turned into torrential rain and strong winds overnight but nothing was going to stop that morning run along the Thames and it sooned brightened up… for a little while at least!!
Henley is a lovely place to walk, eat and people watch, and as it was Keith’s birthday on the Wednesday while we were there we tried out the Boathouse Bistro which had excellent reviews. Despite almost having the place to ourselves, ambience was good, service excellent and the food was pretty tasty. Apparently Thursday is burger day and they do a mean fish burger amongst other things which may just entice us back!
We had said that these first few trips out in Fawks were going to be culinary as well as the obvious need to test out our ability to manouvre Fawks and doing day to day ‘stuff’ whilst travelling…… so once again, after a few days back at the farm we headed off to Denham to try out Wyatts Covert Club Site.
We have been talking about coming to Denham for about 5 years as it is open all year, has hard standing pitches and easy access into London. We just never actually made it as the farm works out for us, especially since they put some hard standing in!
Looking at a map, it should be beautiful walking grounds as it is on the edge of the Grand Union Canal, Nature reserves and reservoirs – one of the reasons why I chose it in the first place several years ago. However, since then someone started to build HS2 roughly 700m from the entrance to the campsite and everywhere we tried to walk was blocked due to construction, so we ended up having to walk on the busy road to get to the canal which was a shame. However, once on the canal it was lovely and tranquil and very picturesque despite being a little middy under foot!
As Denham is roughly half way between our base at the farm and them, it was also a great location – and excuse – to cook for Jonah and Karen as well as obviously introducing them to Fawks.
The campsite is also roughly 30 minutes’ walk to the mainline train into Marylebone so we had planned this trip around a catch up with my brother and friend for a fantastic meal at Meraki. It was a special one-off tasting menu hosted by Kerth Gumbs and Sanjay Dwivedi, and although I didn’t take photos – which wouldn’t have done them justice anyway – it is fair to say that it was the best taramaslata and smoked haddock mousse (two seperate dishes in case you wondered) that I have ever had, and the other dishes weren’t too shabby either!
Back at the farm we took a couple of weeks off from travelling as it was the Easter holidays and we never like going anywhere when it is too busy, which gave us the opportunity to make the most of the sunshine and explore a bit more locally. We headed into London to meet up with Gonzo for a lazy Sunday of walking and eating starting with Brunch in Highbury and ending with tapas in Newington Green ….. how it has changed in 20 + years!
We also met some friends in Caversham and walked in parallel to the Thames to Pangbourne taking in a bit of the beautiful Berkshire Countryside, naturally ending in a pub for food and drinks. I was a bit bemused by the Marks & Spencers Dairy Cow with ‘Semi’ on her ear… I was sure that dairy cows didn’t come pre-classified into Skimmed, Semi and Full Fat… couldn’t find a Gold Top anywhere though!!
Just highlights how beautiful the UK can be at this time of year when the sun is shining and all the blossom is starting to come out – can’t beat it!
Ready to get moving again and with a trip to Bath booked, a week and a half ago we headed West on our longest road trip yet in Fawks to introduce Fawks to a few old friends. A lovely few days of cooking, eating and catching up but as always time flew by and it was soon time to move on – this time all of 12 miles further South West to Chew Valley Caravan Park.
We have talked about coming to this campsite for a long time but never actually made it as we have either had something else to get back to having been down to the West Country, or they have been fully booked as we left it until the last minute. This time however I planned ahead! Unusual for us, but as we were trying to be a little more organised and careful for our first few trips out in Fawks we did actually book in advance, checking and highlighting our size to ensure we weren’t going to have any issues – I had heard they were a little ‘rule’ focussed.
I am glad we did call ahead as there was a moment when I thought that the warden of the campsite was going to get his tape measure out and refuse us entry. There was a lot of teeth sucking going on and a little bit of pacing. However, after a little bit of convincing that we were only 8.45m long – their limit is 9m – he found us a suitable pitch and asked us what we were like at reversing as if we got to the pitch and didn’t fit, we’d have to reverse back out again.
Not sure what his concern was about as the pitch was plenty big enough and there was ample space to reverse into it without issues. Whether or not they will let us back in again in the future is another matter, although it is fair to say we would happily go back as it is a very well maintained site in a beautiful location but you do need to be happy to walk or cycle as although there are buses they are few and far between.
Naturally as we love walking we were in our element. 800m down the lane was the entry to the Chew Valley Reservoir and trail which stretches about 3 miles round the edge of the lake on a path which ended up being my morning run.
We also headed out to explore part of the Three Peaks Trail which is a 17 mile circular route, we only managed to do part of it returning on the same route but it was absolutely stunning, so much more here to explore.
On our last day we took the ‘gastronomic’ trail into Chew Magna – swapping muddy paths for seafood plates of deliciousness at ‘The Lazy Lobster’…. equally as fulfilling just in a slightly different way, well worth a visit if you are in the area and our first time trying Soft Shell Crab… absolutely amazing!
A lovely way to finish our ‘practice’ run with Fawks before we headed back to the farm last Thursday, then off to Europe tomorrow for a bit of Fawks ‘Snagging’ and additional work. We will of course fit some travels in, although the destination of which is still unknown as we haven’t thought that far ahead!
We have of course been cooking as well – some new, some old favourites but here are some of the new recipes we have tried and tested and added to our ‘keeper’ list!!
– Smoked Haddock Scotch Egg
– Cheese Scones
– Chilli Cobbler
– Jerusalem Artichoke Risotto
– Aloo Chana Gobi
– Makhana Dhal
– Kerala Thoran
… oh, and we are still practising perfection on the Tarte au chocolat…. a few more trials to go I reckon but we are nearly there!
….believe it or not, we also managed to get the BBQ out last week – the forecast proved slighty better than reality but we – that is the royal ‘we’ as Keith stood outside whilst the wind cut through and I remained inside – stuck with it and those roasted vegetables, pittas and pesto were fantastic! I am sure that there will be many more to come over the next few weeks – says she looking at the window as it is pouring down with rain!
A few loop the loops but here is the map to see where we have been…